3: Rest and Flexibility
The third and final element of Operation Battlecat relates to the stuff that goes on behind the scenes, and I know I’m not the only runner that neglects this. It’s been around 3½ years since I started running, and in that time I’ve never picked up a serious injury, despite having the light, graceful stride of a pissed-up Frankenstein and despite only ever paying lip-service to stretching1. For some reason I very rarely experience DOMS either, feeling no real soreness even after my longest runs or a hard race. In the past, whenever I’ve found myself wondering why this might be, I usually just assume that I’m magic. Maybe it’s just the universe giving me something back, compensating for my little hobbit legs or my lack of pace by giving me a super-fast healing factor. Just call me Wolverine Karnazes.
But the truth of the matter is that my legs aren’t magic; they’re just attached to someone who’s very lucky. Or to put it more accurately, they’re attached to someone who’s been very lucky so far. Op Battlecat has forced me to think about my current levels of fitness, and I have to face up to the fact that my slapdash approach to stretching and recovery has put me on a collision course to injury.
Unless I make some changes, it’s going to happen. It really is a case of “when” rather than “if”.
So, here’s what I plan to do…
- Stretch after runs, you idiot2. Get into the habit and find enough time to do it properly, holding each stretch for at least 30 seconds.
- Get on a roll. I’ve always enjoyed the rewarding agony of a good foam roller session, but haven’t been doing it as much lately. I’ve had a think about why that might be, and I think the answer lies in my beloved Rumble Roller. As much as I love the evil thing, I think it’s maybe a little too intense for my little legs, and as a result I’ve not been using it as much as I should. I’ve swapped the RR for a less-fierce grid-type roller and plan to use it much more regularly now.
- Increase my flexibility. A little stretching routine after each run is great, but I’m going to look into supplementing this with some pilates or yoga stuff. I’ve heard great things from runners who’ve tried this, and when I dabbled in yoga during my martial arts days I did see some amazing results. As great as I’d look in a leotard, I don’t intend to go to classes, but I’ll try to incorporate some basic moves and positions into my flexibility work.
- Sleep! I’ve developed a nasty habit of staying up late over recent years, and not because I’m so flipping rock ‘n’ roll. A hectic work/family life means that once everything else is sorted, I start to relax and enjoy some “me time” at around 10pm, which invariably sees me getting no more than 5-6 hours of sleep a night. Better sleep = better recovery. And on top of that, an earlier night = less wine, and less wine = less late night snacking. Win win WIN!
1After most runs, my stretching routine follows one of three patterns: A: Completely forget to stretch. B: Remember to stretch, but just do a half-hearted minute of it. C: Remember to stretch, but run out of time. This is especially true when I squeeze in a quick run before work and find myself having to choose between stretching and showering. I’ll always choose a shower over stretching, ever since that time when all those dogs started following me everywhere. 2Me, not you. You’re lovely.